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There are many important Ganesh temples in Maharashtra. Among them, the AshtaVinayagar temples around Pune have a special place.
Ashtavinayaga temples are eight popular Lord Ganesha temples. The term ‘Ashtavinayaga Yatra’ refers to the pilgrimage or yatra to these eight ancient holy Ganapati temples around Pune. These Ashtavinayaga temples have eight distinct forms of Ganesh idols. The form of trunk of each Ganesha idol is different from one another. Some of the Ashtavinayaka are Swayambhu Ganpati murtis (self-existent).
There is a tradition or ritual of visiting these eight Ganesh temples in serial order mentioned in the Shastra. The Yatra starts with Moreshwar of Moregaon, and goes on through Siddhitek, Pali, Mahad, Theur, Lenyadri, Ozar, Ranjangoan, and then again Moregaon. Visiting Moregaon for second time concludes the Yatra.
Brief details of Ashtavinayaga temples:
Mayureshwar or Moreshwar Temple: Located along the banks of Karha River in Morgaon village in Pune District, Lord Ganesh is known as Mayureshwar or Moreshwar. Ganesha is here depicted as riding a peacock. It is believed that Lord Ganesha appeared in this form to destroy a demon named Sindhu. Morgaon village is located in Baramati Taluk and is around 55 km southeast of Pune city.
Siddhivinayak Temple: The idol of Ganesha at Siddhivinayak Temple is unique as it has a right turned trunk. This famous temple dedicated to Lord Ganesh is located at Siddhatek. It is believed that Lord Vishnu prayed to Ganesha before fighting demons Madhu and Kaitab. Ganesh is named Siddhivinayak here because it is believed that Lord Vishnu achieved success because he prayed here. Siddhatek Village is located on the banks of Bhima River near Karjat in Ahmadnagar District. It is south east of Pune city.
Ballaleshwar Temple: Lord Ganesha shrine at Pali in Raigad District known as Ballaleshwar Ganesh Temple is named after Ballal, a staunch devotee of Vinayaka. It is believed that Ganesha appeared here to save his devotee from irate villagers. Pali is around 115 km west of Pune city.
Varad Vinayak or Mahadcha Shri Varadavinayak Temple: Located in Mahad in Raigarh District, Lord Ganesha is believed to have given darshan to Gruthsmadh here who performed penance to get rid of sins. He was granted what he wished and therefore the Varad Vinayak here is known as one who fulfills wishes. A lamp named Nandadeep at the temple is burning constantly since 1892. Mahad is around 25 km southwest of Karjat.
Chintamani Vinayak Temple: Chintamani Ganesh Temple is located in Theur in Pune District. It is believed that Lord Ganesha took the form of Chintamani to get back the precious Chintamani jewel of Sage Kaptila from demon Guna. Another legend has it that Brahma’s mind once underwent turbulence and he called upon Ganesha at Theur to help in keeping his mind in calm. Theur or Theyoor is located 20 km south east of Pune city.
Girijatmaja or Girijatmak or Girijatmaj Temple: Located in Lekhan Hills or Lenaya Parvat or Lenyadri, it is believed that Girija (Goddess Parvati) performed intense austerities for 12 years at the present Girijatmaj Lenyadri Temple to beget Ganesha as her son. One has to climb 283 steps to reach this shrine, which is surrounded by beautiful hills. The Ganesh temple is part of a Buddhist Cave temple. It is located around 150 km north-east of Pune city on the Pune-Nasik Highway
Vighneshwar or Vighnahara or Vighneshwara Temple: Located on the banks of the Kukdeshwar River in Ojhar or Ozhar in Pune District, Vighneshwar Temple represents the form of Ganesha taken to destroy demon Vighnasura. This beautiful temple is located on Pune – Nasik Highway (NH 50) near Junnar and is around 80 km north east of Pune city.
Mahaganapati Temple: Located at Ranjangaon, Mahaganapati Temple is believed to be the spot where Lord Shiva worshipped Ganesha before fighting demon Tripurasura. This is also the most powerful idol of Ganesha as it is depicted having several arms. Ranjangaon is located on the Pune-Ahmadnagar highway and is around 55 km east of Pune City.
All these eight temples can be covered in 2/3 days. Try to spare time to visit these temples during your next visit.